Saturday, December 1, 2012

Movie review: Looper

Looper (2012)
Rating:  4/5

This review is going to have spoilers.  I'm not going to recount the entire movie in detail, but I will, at points, be talking about the ending.  So if you've already seen Looper, by all means keep reading and weigh in with your opinion in the comments section.  But if you've not yet seen it, and do not want the ending spoiled, then don't read further than this paragraph.  So for those of you who haven't seen it, here is my recommendation:  go see it!  I saw it at a $3.50 theater, which usually plays movies that are no longer showing at most theaters, but before they have been released on DVD/Blu-Ray.  So, unless it is still playing at a cheap theater near you, most of you might have to wait until it is released on DVD/Blu-Ray to be able to see it.  But I would have gladly paid full price to see it in theaters.  So, regardless of the format (theater, cheap theater, dvd, etc.), I highly recommend this movie.  Chance of spoilers from here on out.  You have been warned.

So, I finally got around to seeing Looper a few nights ago.  And honestly, I initially had mixed feelings about it.  Don't get me wrong, I think it was an awesome movie, and I definitely really, really liked it!  But, after leaving the theater, there were just a few things that left me feeling a little bit underwhelmed.  It could have been because I had been wanting to see it since the first preview I saw, but only just recently got around to it.  Or it could be because it has been so highly reviewed and talked about.  So maybe I just let my expectations build up too much before seeing it, and then felt like it hadn't lived up to my expectations.  I try to keep from letting my expectations get too high before seeing films for that very reason.  There was really only one major plot point that I felt had let me down.  But, upon further review, I have thought of a possible explanation that could explain things in such a way that I no longer feel quite as underwhelmed.  I will address this further in the "what didn't work" section below.

What worked:  The acting.  The acting was pretty solid throughout, and each character was (mostly) believable.  But what really stood out to me was Joseph Gordon Levitt's performance.  JGL might very well be one of my favorite actors right now!  I don't remember the last time I saw him in a film and was disappointed with his performance.  But what I loved so much about him in Looper was that he was trying to capture the essence of Bruce Willis.  I saw a few interviews with him where he said that he was not trying to play a young Bruce Willis, but trying to play a young version of current Bruce Willis.  In doing so, it would have been very easy for it to have been overdone and felt more like a caricature.  But, thankfully, I do not think it turned out that way.  The voice was similar, but what really got me was some of the looks and physical acting that accompanied the voice.  It was the subtle things that he did that really sold the performance of a young version of an old Bruce Willis.

What also worked:  how time traveling was handled.  The focus of the movie was not on time travel.  The focus was on the characters, their stories, and how some of the effects of time travel (specifically, Bruce Willis being alive in the past) affected their personal stories.  And by focusing on the characters, and the time travel plot only really involving one person's future, it avoided most of the inevitable paradoxes of "but this is the doesn't that mean that it had to have happened this way anyways?" type of questions.  I also like how Bruce Willis's character directly addressed that he didn't want to spend the entire time talking about time travel, but did talk about things being fuzzy until after something happens because what happens is only one of infinite options.  Basically, rather than spending the entire movie trying to explain time travel in a way that will appease all the time travel fanboys, it's presented in a "time travel is just a part of this universe...accept it."  That's actually one of the things that I really love about Rian Johnson's (writer/director) movies...he makes really good movies with captivating stories, and the devices he uses to set the story apart as something different (a mobster story set in a high school in Brick, or the almost children's story-esque feel of con artists in The Brothers Bloom) are not the focus of the story.  Basically, he tells really good stories in interesting ways, rather than using an "interesting" way of telling a story to tell a bad story.

What didn't work:  the ending.  This is the part that left me feeling a little disappointed when I left the theater, but upon further review I'm less disappointed.  (Even though I gave a spoiler warning at the beginning, here is another SPOILER WARNING).  JGL's character envisions a future where the little kid turns into the Rainmaker because his mother was shot by Bruce Willis's character while he was trying to kill the kid.  In JGL's vision, it is the mother's death that turns the kid into the Rainmaker.  So, if the mother doesn't die, the kid will grow up to be good rather than evil.  So, the way JGL prevents the kid from turning into the Rainmaker is for JGL to kill himself before Bruce Willis's character has a chance to shoot the mother.  The reason this bothered me is because, earlier in the film, Bruce Willis's character was sent back in time and killed by JGL.  So, if Bruce Willis died in an earlier version, then that means he wasn't able to kill the kid's mother, which means that even if she lives to raise him, he still turns into the Rainmaker.  This would mean that JGL's sacrifice is pointless, because the kid still grows up to be the Rainmaker, and the seemingly "happy" ending of the film never really changes anything.

But then I thought about the fact that Bruce Willis's character was shown going back in time three times.  The first time, he gets away and you see JGL fall from a fire-escape while trying to escape the Gat Men.  The next scene is JGL waiting in the field, where he actually kills Bruce Willis this time.  I thought about the fact that you don't see anything that happens the first time after JGL falls off the fire-escape.  So, assuming that things played out basically the same way that they did in the third timeline, what if Bruce Willis killed the mother before JGL realizes how to stop him.  If that were the case, then how JGL stops him in the third timeline is much more believable.  And if that is the case, then I am less disappointed in the ending.  I know that time travel wasn't the focus of the movie, and trying to debate some of the paradoxes of the time travel takes away from the real focus of the characters.  But, at the same time, if there is a glaring flaw in some of the logic, then it's harder for me to focus on the characters...because the integrity of the entire setting has been compromised.  So, for me, having a possible explanation of those time travel paradoxes actually helps me to focus less on the time travel.

Having thought of a possible explanation for the (initially) major plot hole of how the Rainmaker was created in the time loop, I do still have a minor (to moderate) complaint of the development shown of the kid's character.  The kid hates his mother for 10 years, and calls her by her first name because he refuses to acknowledge her as his mother, but then suddenly starts calling her "mom" after she is almost shot.  Also, he flips out because he refuses to admit that he got a math problem wrong. In fact, he flips out to the point where the mother has to hide inside of a safe, due to fear of the kid.  So if she is so scared of him over such a minor offense, then how does she know that she will be able to raise him right and keep him from being the Rainmaker.  Also, if she can't even talk him down from the wrong math problem, then how is she suddenly able to talk him down when Bruce Willis is about to kill her?

Despite my complaints about the development of the kid's character (which is the primary reason I didn't give it higher than a 4/5), I still think Looper is a really good movie, and I definitely recommend seeing it.  If I end up picking up the Blu-Ray when it comes out, I'll be sure to post a review of the extras, etc. to let you know if it's worth buying or not.  But until then, definitely go see's good.

Be sure to check back soon for more reviews and recommendations.